Sony CEO Kaz Hirai decides to step down after six-year tenure

Kaz Hirai at CES 2016
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Sony CEO Hirai Kazuo, best known outside of Japan as Kaz Hirai, will step down from his role at the company on April 1, 2018. His successor is current Chief Financial Officer Yoshida Kenichiro. Hirai will not leave Sony, but will instead take on the role of director and chairman at that time. The decision came from Hirai himself, and his proposal was approved by Sony’s board of directors on February 2.

In a statement, Hirai says, “As the company approaches a crucial juncture, when we will embark on a new midrange plan, I consider this to be the ideal time to pass the baton of leadership to new management, for the future of Sony and also for myself to embark on a new chapter in my life.”

Hirai became CEO in 2012, but was well known before then as president of Sony Computer Entertainment, during which time he turned the PlayStation brand around and returned it to success. According to Hirai he has been working closely with Yoshida since late 2013, who has been a “valuable confidant and business partner,” and the pair took on, “the challenge of transforming Sony together.” “As chairman,” Hirai continues, “I will offer my full support to Mr Yoshida and the new management team.”

Yoshida became CFO in April 2014, around the same time Sony faced damaging scandals after hackers exposed emails revealing private information about the company, its staff, and future plans. In an interview with the Financial Times in December 2014, Yoshida is described as “straight-talking,” and with a “reputation for being ‘blunt’ and ‘ruthless’ when it comes to achieving targets.” He was instrumental in changing the way Sony Entertainment was managed, and in making other decisions key to turning around Sony’s fortunes.

In Sony’s official statement, Yoshida says, “Together with the outstanding talent we have across the Sony Group, I will aim to build on the business foundations established by Mr. Hirai, and execute further reform measures that enhance our competitiveness as a global enterprise, and enable us to realize long-term profit growth.”

Yoshida’s first order of business will be to finalize Sony’s plans for the near future, and to put its 2018 plan into action. Hirai has not announced any future plans beyond his role as chairman at Sony.

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